Rhetological Fallacies via Information is Beautiful


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Category: Really, really bad calls, UnScience

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

5 Responses to “Classic Logical Errors and Rhetorical Failures”

  1. ZedLoch says:

    Nice. My personal favorites are “Poisoning the well” and “No true Scotsman” simply for the imagery.

  2. Quid says:

    A nice basic list but I think the headline and atrocious neologism are ignorant and misleading. Rhetoric is ubiquitous (it is, for example, an essential element of all art) and is by definition manipulation. But logic is only one form of reason and a statement or assertion is not necessarily false just because it is illogical. Plato writes of Socrates debating with the Sophists, the great masters of rhetoric, over the morality of their science but in the end Socrates (and Plato) must (quite consciously) resort to rhetorical techniques to defend (his version of) the Good. It is not at all coincidental that the community that created and perfected the art of dramatic storytelling was deeply curious about and skeptical of language’s power and also established (and pretty much perfected) rhetoric, the science or analysis of that power.

  3. RW says:

    Lists such as this — and the compactness of this one is excellent for that purpose — are more useful as learning tools than as direct rebuttals in the heat of debate IMO; that is, fallacies in informal argument don’t inevitably mean the conclusion is wrong but awareness of the flaw alerts the listener to a problem and may show where to look for either a cure or a (more) solid rebuttal.

    My own favorites, in part because of imagery and in part because I see them so often, are the fallacies of the red herring, straw man, and non sequitur. These are, collectively, arguments that do not, indeed cannot, prove or refute what they claim to prove or refute; e.g., ignoratio elenchi.

    The Fallacy of the Beard is a favorite too, for imagery and the way it highlights a fundamental problem with language categories; cf. fuzzy logic and prototype theory.

  4. Anonymous Jones says:

    Although I do believe that dissemination of this information is quite beneficial, I do have a minor quibble. There needs to be addition to the rhetorical failures list: “Reducing everything to an unambiguous aphorism.”

    So my pet peeve is something like “Circumstance Ad Hominem”. That phrase “ad hominem” now gets thrown around in debates like a magical incantation that supersedes all other arguments. Hogwash. Ad Hominem arguments are *less* persuasive. They are not *irrelevant*. What is an accusation of “confirmation bias” other than an ad hominem argument? It’s so silly. People say “look, that’s bad” but that doesn’t mean that it’s “devoid” of use. If someone has an interest in the argument put forth, that is (without question!) relevant evidence. No, it doesn’t prove anything. But people who have interests in something are less likely to think clearly about that thing. This cannot possibly be in reasonable dispute. Ad Hominem arguments are less effective than dealing with the actual underlying argument, but that is not the same as saying they are irrelevant. They are absolutely not irrelevant.

  5. Whammer says:

    The “appeal to probability” fallacy is flawed only in its phrasing ;-) That is, if you say something is highly likely by appealing to probability you will be right. If you say “it must be”, then you’re wrong.

    It’s probability after all…..

    Also, the “circumstance ad hominem” argument isn’t necessarily that bad either. Certainly you could say that if a phone company funded a study that establishes the safety of mobile phones, that study should be scrutinized with extra care. Rejecting it out of hand would not be fair, I agree.

    I will also note as an aside that many of these logical errors can be found every minute on wingnut blogs and climate denier sites……